Christianity 201

February 2, 2015

Marching in the Trees

II Samuel 5:24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” (ESV)

Angels tread light, and he that can walk upon the clouds can, when he pleases, walk on the tops of trees, or (as bishop Patrick understands it) at the head of the mulberry-trees, that is, of the wood, or hedge-row of those trees. ~ Matthew Henry

Today we pay a return visit to Alistair Begg, pastor and host of the Christian radio program Truth for Life.  He writes and broadcasts to a much older audience than most readers here, but I believe we can learn much from the writings of another generation if we just slow down enough to take in what they have to teach us.

First, a definition of a term in the first sentence that is not used as much in the modern church:

Unction = ( 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ; RSV, “anointing”)  Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed, in token of receiving divine grace. All believers are, in a secondary sense, what Christ was in a primary sense, “the Lord’s anointed.”  (Easton’s Bible Dictionary sourced at Bible Study Tools.)

Here I would add that this should not be confused with the Roman Catholic sacrament of the same name. If your background is Catholic Church, you may find the use of term confusing.

To read the devotional at source, and see others by the same author, click the title below.

Be Prepared

The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that His “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”1 But there are times when God seems especially to favor Zion; such seasons ought to be to them like “the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.”

We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been used to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing–now let us pull manfully for the shore. Oh, for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labors.

Christian, in yourself there are times “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than before. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees,” is the time to rouse yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helps your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing…

I can only spread the sail;
But God must breathe the auspicious gale.

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith, that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne, that you may be more holy in your conversation while you live more closely with Christ.

1Matthew 6:10


I John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

February 12, 2013

Then the Word of the Lord Hit Me

Although this is a longer item today, I wanted to include the introduction which really resonated and helped me to understand where the author, Tim Whitehead is coming from. This is from the blog, Just My Thoughts and appeared under a title that better reflects what he is really writing about here, The Power of the Potter. This is a blog that I hope you will want to bookmark.

“Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel” Jeremiah 18:5, 6

A reoccurring phrase which is common among the Old Testament prophets is, “…the word of the Lord came to me…” I liken this phrase to hearing people say something like, “And suddenly it hit me” or “I was doing such-and-such and it dawned on me. It came to me that…” Each of these contains with them the element of the unexpected, that it was something which happened suddenly while busily doing something else. Imagine Jeremiah going about his daily routine, handling his chores, taking care of some things, when suddenly the Lord speaks to him. Amid him just being an ordinary guy, going about his typical day, doing all the typical things that regular folks do, the Lord abruptly interrupt Jeremiah’s day and his thoughts, and He talks to him.

The reason that I point this out is because I want to dispel the notion that in order to hear from God we must place ourselves on extended fasts, spend hours in prayer, read numerous chapters and whole books of the bible daily, all the while living a solitary life as hermit. I’m not saying that living a disciplined life is wrong, or that there is anything wrong with setting aside personal time with the Lord daily. These are right and good. But never believe that these are the only times, and only in these situations can the Lord can speak to you. It is possible to be a regular person, like Jeremiah and others in the scriptures, live a routine, life and still be able to hear from God clearly.

You see, its one thing to spend time with God each day, but quite another to walk with God throughout your day. Those who walk with the Lord do not subject Him and whatever it is that He desires to do and say to their daily devotional times. The do not restrict Him to a specific time and place. They go throughout their day daily keeping their hearts sensitive to Him. They are available to Him for His use at any moment. They listen for Him. The ones who walk with God are flexible. They are continually cognizant that their plans can be divinely changed, and they are fine with it.

 A lot of people desire to hear from the Lord, and even to be used by Him, but they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Yes, they want the Lord to speak them, and yes they want to be used by Him, just as long as it does not interrupt their lives; their plans and activities.  I realize by experience that some of the best, and the most wonderful times of ministry are those unscheduled opportunities to minister that happen through the course of your day as you are doing nothing spiritually related at all. They can happen in the supermarket, on your job, at a restaurant, etc. You didn’t plan them and had no foreknowledge or warning that it would happen. They were strategically, divinely set up.

It’s the same way with the Lord speaking to you. He has a way of speaking to you, of dealing with your heart, at times when you are least expecting it. These are usually times when you aren’t even trying to hear from Him. On the other hand, in those times when you desperately need and want to hear from Him that He is silent. 

       – o – o – o –

The Lord says to the Israelites through Jeremiah, “…Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” In my mind I hear God saying it like this, “Israel, don’t you realize that I can do to you the same thing this potter did to the clay? Don’t you know that I can do that?” I imagine He said it with authority.  So what did the potter do to the clay which God says that He could do to Israel? We can find the answer to this by going back to verses 3 and 4. Jeremiah says, “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” (verses 3, 4)  

The potter decided that he was going to make a certain vessel. As he was going about working on the vessel he discovered a flaw. The potter begins again. This time he isn’t going to make the same thing that he originally had in mind. He changes his mind and decides that he going to make something new. The Lord says to Israel, “I can deal with you the same way. I can do the exact same thing to you.” And He did.  

Israel enjoyed a special relationship with the Lord. They knew that they were His first choice above all other nations. They were fully aware that they were God’s elect, His chosen people. As such, they enjoyed certain privileges and experienced blessings which other nations did not. The people of Israel made a mistake thinking that because of whom they were, and their standing with God, He could not and would never cast them off. How sorely they were mistaken.

Using the potter and the clay as an illustration, God sent a clear and simple message to the people of Israel: “Israel, I am God and you are not. As quickly as I chose you to work with, just as sure as I had an original will and plan for you. I can just as easily, and just quickly change my mind.”  When those who are God’s first choice are unfaithful then the Lord raises up others in their place.    

Once and again I have warned believers over the years to be very careful that they never make the mistake thinking that they are all God have. Never think that just because God has chosen you, you are now secure in your place and position, and you cannot be replaced. Not one of us is so secure that because of who we are and because of our position we are not easily replaceable. We’re all expendable. Throughout the scriptures we have examples of those who were God’s first choice, but they were unfaithful to Him and to His commands, they disobeyed and they were quickly replaced by others.

Usually the ones who the Lord chose to replace His first choice were most times  the ones that in the eyes of others were the least likely to be selected for the position and job.

These days I see a lot of folks in the ministry who are indeed called by God and they are truly gifted, but the anointing of God has been removed from their lives and ministries a long time ago. These aren’t people who were never called to begin with. They were called, but somehow or other they got distracted from the Lord and from the assignment that He gave to them, some got into sin and disobedience, etc. As a result, all they are left with are gifts and a call, with no anointing. They still have the title, but they lost the anointing. They still receive the acclaim and accolades of the people, but they lost the anointing. They’re prosperous and powerful, but have lost the true riches and power, the anointing. In the eyes of men they are successful, but in God’s eyes they’ve failed without the anointing.

It is thoroughly possible to maintain gifts and callings, to even continue to function, though the anointing is no longer there. What’s frightening is you can even be successful at it. Never assume that just because a minister or ministry is successful it is anointed.

The Lord further says to Israel, “…Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” In other words, “In the same way that the potter can do whatever he desires with the clay that is in his hands, so to, I, the Lord, can do the same to you Israel. I can do to you, and with you, whatever I desire. I chose you but I can change my mind if you give me a reason to.” 

Even though the Lord has called us and He has chosen us; we’ve received, and still continue to receive, His blessings; we are privileged to be used by Him at times; we get to enjoy a special relationship with Him and to fellowship with Him, but, these must never cause us to get so comfortable with the Lord, and so secure in our position, that we forget that He is God. He is in control. He is the boss is. From time to time when it looks like we’re forgetting He will give us a sobering reminder.   

This passage has nothing to do with the Lord, as the Master Potter, taking the flawed and the broken pieces of our lives and remaking it into something beautiful. Certainly He can and He does do this. But this passage is not about that and has nothing to with it. It has everything to do with the power of the potter; that the potter has over the clay to do with it as he desires, and that circumstances can cause the potter’s original plan, will and purpose to change, thus requiring him to do something differently.